Police say new integrated crime reduction teams showing success

The Prince Albert Police Service administrative team (left to right): Insp. Brent McDonald, Deputy Chief Jason Stonechild, Chief Jon Bergen, Insp. Craig Mushka and Insp. Tadd Kellett.

The Prince Albert Police Services (PAPS) held a press conference Wednesday to address recent actions taken to curb violent crime.

Insp. Brent McDonald spoke to reporters Wednesday to highlight the service’s “intelligence-driven” approach to gang and gun violence and the work done by some specialized teams.

PAPS introduced its Integrated Crime Reduction Team, or ICRT, almost a year ago. They said that team continues to see results.

Working together with the Street Enforcement Team, ICRT has been able to help get drugs, guns and gangs off the city’s streets.

CRT members have their fingers on the pulse of the community and are out there focused on gangs and violent offenders in order to protect the public,” McDonald said.

“These are highly-motivated, specialized officers who target those individuals and groups who pose the greatest risk to community safety.”

He also spoke about the gang violence reduction strategy, a province-wide initiative that focuses on enforcement, suppression and prevention.

ICRT, he said, focuses on gang violence, firearms and drug enforcement, specifically meth and opioids. They also work on property crime when those investigations span across multiple jurisdictions.

With all the recent investigations, PAPS has called on the RCMP crime reduction teams to support high-visibility and other proactive work.

“We’ve seen some success over the past number of weeks,” McDonald said.

“Our violent crime has decreased. Any violence is concerning, but I’m happy to report we’ve seen a decrease some of that due to investigations where we’ve been able to hold those accountable and put them before the court.

Recently, McDonald said, the ICRT has had to move away from its work on “targeted, reactive enforcement” to carry out investigations in serious assaults and shootings and assist the major crime unit, which “has its hands full.”

Patrol units and partner police agencies, though, have been able to help.

With six officers self-isolating after testing positive for COVID-19, the RCMP were able to come into the city, receive guidance from the police’s ICRT analyst and begin high-visibility and proactive vehicle stops and contacts with people “at targeted addresses associated with gang criminality.”

Those patrols “were able to seize a large number of weapons, drugs and make arrest warrants,” McDonald said.

” Their impact has been felt in our community. We’re appreciative of their efforts.”

Those arrests, McDonald said, could be a reason violent crime has begun to become less common after a spike a few weeks ago.

All that, he said, is thanks in part to the work of the police’s intelligence units and analysts who work together to identify areas for proactive enforcement. They work with other police agencies as well, sharing information to allow patrol and other units to target areas where they suspect crime could be taking place.

“A lot of intelligence can be shared between the teams,” McDonald said.

“We lean on everybody when a spike in crime happens. Obviously, our frontline patrol members’ day-to-day duties include responding to that. they know who the players are as well. simple vehicle stops have led to arrests of people with warrants, and often, the discovery of illegal firearms or illicit drugs.”

ICRT, McDonald said, works to determine what the driving causes are behind violent offences.

“We need to proactively go after those who are in possession of these illegal firearms, committing these senseless acts of violence and drug trafficking which tends to fuel the violence. There are very specific mandates for these units,” he said.

“It’s a target-rich environment and they’re going to produce the results we need them to.”

Gang violence a factor in recent crime spike

McDonald said much of the recent increase in violent crime is linked back to gang-related violence, though he declined to get into specifics.

“We’ll often avoid mentioning any particular gang,” McDonald said.

“We want to avoid glorifying them or giving them any kind of notoriety.”

He said the city has “a couple” of dominant street gangs, and one of the primary focuses of ICRT is to determine whether gang-related violence is from recurring, from gang members being sent to “complete missions” or from other factors.

“Right now, there seems to be a lot of conflict within particular gangs,” he said.

“There are rival gangs, but we’re not seeing a gang war. The motive behind a lot of these offences tends to be personal beefs between individual members of the same gang. Unfortunately, it’s resulted in some pretty serious injuries to those members.”

That’s where education, awareness and prevention come in, McDonald said.

Gang recruitment is ongoing, often stemming from a stay in one of the city’s correctional institutions. He wants youth to realize that gang life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

“I would hope the youth could be informed that joining a gang that you think is your family can quickly turn on you and you can end up being the victim of violence from members who are supposed to be in your gang,” he said.

He stressed the importance of community groups who are working to keep kids out of gang life or to pull them out before they get in too deep.

 It’s similar to comments made by Bergen about work being done with community organizations to address other root causes of crime, such as addictions, poverty and mental health.

“We spend a lot of our time on enforcement, but we cannot forget about prevention and intervention,” McDonald said.

“Working together with community-based organizations, we want to celebrate some success in that area.”